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Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi
Zimbabwean Movement for Democratic Change supporters gather to pay their last respects during the burial of former leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Buhera, Zimbabwe about 200 kilometres south east of Harare, Tuesday, Feb, 20, 2018. Zimbabwe's veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, aged 65, died Feb 14 and was laid to rest at his rural home in Buhera. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

BUHERA, Zimbabwe — Thousands of people in Zimbabwe on Tuesday gathered for the burial of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose death from cancer exacerbated divisions within a movement preparing for elections this year.

A hearse carrying Tsvangirai's body in a white casket drove slowly through crowds to a school ground near his rural home in eastern Zimbabwe.

Rival leaders vied for control of the opposition MDC-T party after the death last week of Tsvangirai, a longtime opponent of former President Robert Mugabe who also entered into a flawed power-sharing arrangement with him after disputed elections.

"Our leaders are going to unite," Nelson Chamisa, head of the opposition party, said at the burial.

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He said he had a condolence letter from Mugabe, but refused the crowd's calls that he read it and instead handed it to a member of Tsvangirai's family.

Chamisa's authority has been challenged by two other MDC officials, Thokozani Khupe and former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri. The MDC-T party holds the second largest number of seats in Zimbabwe's parliament.

Mugabe resigned after a military takeover in November, and his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, says elections will be held as scheduled this year.